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If you’ve been following along on my journey, you already know that our nation’s birthday is a bittersweet holiday for me. It was on the Fourth of July, 1949, that the Flapper took her family for a car ride to see the new airport in Wilkes Barre, PA. A drunk driver plowed into our car headfirst. And that car accident was the reason I was raised by foster parents; the reason I had two families, two homes, two mothers.

“Unfortunately, Independence Day has 19% more traffic fatalities than the average holiday — due, again, to drunk driving and increased traffic. What’s more, 52% of all traffic deaths occurred because someone involved wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Additionally, fatigue plays a serious role in Independence Day deaths. Many Americans use the time off for this holiday to take the family on a short trip, and the long drives lead to tired drivers, which lead to deadly mistakes.”

https://www.autoinsurance.org/deadliest-holidays-to-drive/

That being said, I have always hated driving on this weekend. And even though we now have seat belts, and mothers against drunk driving, I’m still skittish. OTOH, some of my best childhood memories are from the fireworks celebration over Lake St Joseph in the Catskill Mountains. It signaled the start of summer camp season, and I couldn’t wait to get back to camp. Sleepaway camp, even if it had a nun in every cabin, represented freedom in my pre-adolescent Catholic school girl’s life.

At Camp St Joseph for girls, I had the opportunity to excel at sports, to sing in the plays, and train to become a lifeguard. This was pre-Title IX. I was voted captain of my team, and became a top notch jacks player. I advanced to Counselor-in-Training (CIT) at 16 and taught boating and canoeing. Camp was the place I forged my identity – I would dream about it well into my 30s.

And when the nuns read us the riot act, after finding out about my scheme to pass notes to Boy’s Camp through the altar boys during Mass, I was the first and only CIT to volunteer to leave. That was my last summer at camp. I was becoming a lapsed Catholic just as my world opened up to include my biological/extended/family, including a Jewish Step-Father!

Maybe the SCOTUS would like to revisit Title IX? They seem to be doing a good job at setting us back decades by overturning Roe in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Org case. If they feel the states can force women to carry a fetus to term, maybe their true mission is to keep us barefoot and pregnant? I’ve lost all respect for this court, this crowd of ultra-radical right-wing partisan appointees.

“Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor and a liberal constitutional scholar, said that, based on the logic of Dobbs, “there’s no principled way to hold back the tide that would return us to the law of the late 1800s on matters of privacy, reproduction, sexual intimacy and L.G.B.T.Q. equality.” Although Lochner itself is probably “too radioactive” for this court to embrace outright, the court’s overall hostility to government regulation of business and its celebration of individual freedom are clearly in the ascendant. Professor Tribe warned that the effect could be to “return our jurisprudence to a preindustrial, agrarian world. It’s all but unthinkable.” The consequences, he added, could be “horrendous.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/02/business/scotus-lochner-v-new-york.html

I wonder if the good professor read Margaret Atwood?

We woke on Friday morning to a street full of tiny American flags up and down near mailboxes. We don’t know who was responsible, but suspect it was a real estate company. Some people took their flags down, but we didn’t. The 30% of religious/right/cult followers in this country don’t get to dictate who can exhibit their patriotism and who can’t. I’ve even got my stars and stripes pinwheel on my desk! And I’m wearing my handmade red, white and blue eternity necklace.

But if you see me crying at a parade today, and I’ve been known to cry at 4th of July parades, it may just be for the human rights I see slipping away.

I’ve just learned of another mass shooting at a parade in Chicago this afternoon. Dear God, what will it take?

A blueberry lemon ricotta birthday cake

Roe

I woke this morning to sun, and the promise of new beginnings. Then I remembered.

SCOTUS’ opinion yesterday, to allow states to criminalize a woman’s right to choose, settled like a veil around me. How could we let this happen? It turns out there’s an easy answer.

We’ve allowed an illegitimate Supreme Court to bring their extreme religious/originalist interpretation of constitutional law to light. We’ve allowed a Majority Leader to ignore a Presidential pick, namely Merrick Garland. In short, our laws are beginning to reflect the minority of fundamentalist Christians in this country.

“They cling to their guns and their religion.” Maybe the mic was supposed to be off, but presidential candidate Obama was right on.

My reaction has surprised me. I am buried, I am burdened by grief; it’s as if a family member has died. Maybe it’s a part of me that was killed yesterday. That part of me that felt like I was an equal partner in my world, in this democracy. Did my country just divorce me? I know first hand what the consequences will be now in this red state. My daughter was interviewed for the local paper last week.

“What will the consequences be for an ER doctor if Roe is overturned?”

She was working in her ER yesterday when the 6-3 decision broke and texted me – I was doing a Zoom Pilates and not watching or listening to the news. I was practicing self-care, starting the day with exercise instead of watering the garden after breakfast. After rolling up the yoga mat, I picked up the chiming phone and sank into the couch.

She had told me the decision would probably come down on Monday…we all knew it was coming because of the leak. Still, I thought just maybe SCOTUS would see the light.

Here’s a sampling of what the Bride will likely see in her Catholic hospital’s ER.

Teenagers with belly pains who are pregnant.

Women and girls in septic shock from a botched illegal abortion.

Ectopic pregnancies.

Rape and incest victims.

Homeless women who are pregnant.

When a woman walks into the Bride’s ER, in the middle of the night, experiencing a miscarriage (whether self-induced or natural, it’s hard to tell), will my daughter think twice before helping her end the pregnancy? And if she does save the life of this miscarrying woman, could my daughter be arrested?

Will her hospital insist that she save the life of a fetus above all else? Above the life of a woman? Will our local Planned Parenthood clinic even exist? Will there be an ‘underground railroad’ to ferry girls back and forth to Illinois? These are fair questions.

Back in the 60s, girls from certain families flew away for weekend “vacations.” Some flew to Mexico. And before that, women who found themselves in ‘the family way’ hopped on down to Florida and sailed to Cuba. Afterwards, those privileged, upper class girls were sent off to a fancy young women’s boarding school. Their indiscretion was never spoke of again.

Then you had the middle-class girls who were sent off immediately, to some quasi-religious, unwed mother’s home. These teens got to carry their pregnancies to term in secret, in a dorm-like environment of their peers. Shame was served with every meal. After they gave birth and signed the baby away to foster parents, they could be re-integrated with their families and back into their communities. Maybe they were visiting an elderly aunt for six months.

What were the poor, the disenfranchised women left to do in the 60s? – the married Catholic woman who already had six children and couldn’t possibly handle another – the single mother who was living on welfare and on the edge of addiction – the teenager who couldn’t possibly tell her religious parents she was pregnant – that girl might try to hide her condition, and carry the fetus to term only to deliver in the public bathroom at her Senior Prom.

But today, or I should say before yesterday, teens account for less than 9% of abortions in this country. Surprised?

The other women living below the poverty line, women with children, had to seek out illegal, back alley abortions before Roe. What was the statistical probability that these women would not develop an infection? How many died, or were made infertile by a hack butcher? These will be the real life consequences of a conservative court.

We are going back there, rolling back 50 years of precedent. We are treating a woman’s body like a commodity again, to be regulated. We must codify Roe, for our grandchildren.

Jim

My Daddy Jim was the only dad I knew.

I had a biological father who died before I turned one. He was a pharmacist and owned a drug store. I had a stepfather at 12 who died my freshman year in college. He was a lawyer and a judge. You could say I had an abundance of smart, successful fathers, but only one real, true Daddy – my foster father Jim.

Daddy Jim had an eighth grade education. He left school early to work, in order to help his large Irish Catholic family. It wasn’t uncommon then, there were no child labor laws. He joined the Navy, and because his eighteenth birthday fell between two great wars, he never knew combat. He was a teenager when he married my foster mother Nell, and they only had one child.

Their daughter Jackie was a nurse when they scooped me up after my Year of Living Dangerously. Jim was over 50 years old when suddenly he and Nell filled their empty nest with a baby. Me.

Daddy Jim gave me the capacity to love.

I’ve given this a lot of thought; girls raised by a nurturing and loving father have a better than average chance at finding love. After all, some fathers can be driven by their careers, their hobbies, booze or even extra-marital affairs. The young women they raise might think that love can mean detachment, or even abuse. Intimacy can be elusive.

Over Father’s Day weekend, I made a list of the memories I have about Jim:

He Gave me the World – He would read to me from a newspaper. Since Nell didn’t drive a car, Jim would take me shopping for food. I learned how to talk with the butcher, and the baker – how to connect with others. He would take me swimming and ice skating at a pond.

He Would Comfort me – Whenever I was sick, he would hold my hair back. He would always stay with me until I fell asleep. We would stop for ice cream sundaes after Mass every Sunday. Whenever I asked him what he wanted as a gift for Father’s Day, he’d say ‘nothing.’ But I’d get him a new pair of slippers anyway.

He Liked to Surprise me – Every day when he’d return home from work, he’d have a tiny surprise in one hand or one pocket, and I’d have to guess. How did I always guess the right hand? I can’t even remember what these gifts were, probably a flower or a fancy rock? Maybe a nickel? It didn’t matter. What mattered is that I knew I mattered to him. Jim once built me a doll house made of popsicle sticks!

He Taught me How to Play – Whenever I was “bad,” he’d chase me outside all around the house until he’d catch me and give me “paddy whackins.” It was like play-spanking because we’d collapse out of breath with laughter. And every day after dinner we’d play cards for pennies. This was serious stuff. He taught me not to cheat, and to save my winnings in a piggy bank.

He Helped Around the House – In the old days, it was highly unusual for dads to do housework. And even though Nell was a full-time-homemaker, Jim would wash the kitchen floor every Saturday morning while I watched cartoons. We’d dry and put away the dishes after dinner, before gin rummy. He’d clean out the ashes in the coal bin and pick up the dog poop in the yard.

When Jim retired from his government job as the “Transportation Man” – the person who coordinated the trains in and out of Picatinny Arsenal, he was given a watch. I wish I could tell him how much he meant to me, so much more than a watch, or a pair of slippers. He died before Bob and I married, and he’d forgotten who I was at the end.

He was the embodiment of unconditional love. And I was so lucky he chose me as his daughter.

Pop Bob at the Farmer’s Market

This morning I have two choices – I could write, or I could watch the true crime drama unfolding in DC.

Wait, the January 6 hearing is postponed because someone’s wife went into labor? Great! I can tell you all about my week; the grand event was the installation of the master bedroom closet. Finally. My clothes have found a home! There still may be a handful of boxes left lurking about, waiting to be opened. Like the dream of a second home, the box of sand toys and acrylic wine glasses I reluctantly put away this week.

“These are from my Beach House box,” I told the Groom. The Bride was working a night shift so it was just the boys and the Love Bug as she climbed the step ladder, reaching for my melamine plates high above the refrigerator. I packed that box in NJ a long time ago; back when the Rocker was going off to college.

There may have been a wistful tone to my voice, I’m not sure. But the ‘Beach House’ was one of the last boxes left to unpack, and I knew that once the colorful dishes and beach towels were cleaned and sorted away, my dream of owning a little sliver of sand was over.

On the other hand, unpacking ALL of my clothes was like Christmas morning, every morning for a few days straight. It was also a bit intimidating. I no longer wear high heels, or crew neck sweaters, or anything fancy for that matter. My pandemic style became clear – comfortable cotton things bought at Whole Foods, mixed with an occasional online sale that Instagram knew I wanted. And for some odd reason I’ve accumulated a lot of jumpsuit/overalls? Maybe the result of living in a little city farmhouse.

What to keep and what to give away was becoming less clear. I thought about the Bride asking me how many red shoes I really need. I started asking myself why I have so many summer sweaters when the temps here in Nashville tickle 100 degrees. Then I thought about the stylist who helped me go through my closet before leaving the Blue Ridge – what would she tell me to do?

Find your style! Ha, easier said than done for this transplanted nana. There are the Rumson clothes vs the Southern clothes. Caribbean vacation clothes vs comfy yoga pants and sweats. In a rare moment of synchronicity, Bob and I watched the finale of Grace and Frankie on Netflix. In fact, we loved all seven seasons and 94 episodes! Often I’d find myself wondering if my style was more Lily Tomlin or Jane Fonda…or maybe somewhere in between.

Then I heard about the Coastal Grandma look!

“This week, “coastal grandma” may have suddenly slipped into your vocabulary. The preppy new trend on everyone’s lips is a world away from the micro-minis of yestermonth. Think shingled beach homes, light and airy chambray button-downslinen everything, bountiful backyard gardens filled with various lettuce varieties, and a meticulously maintained chicken coup (an ironic spelling error) with more square footage than a Manhattan apartment. That’s coastal grandma.”

https://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/coastal-grandma-trend/

Eureka! I could relate to that aesthetic and I don’t need to own a beach house to look like someone who owns a beach house. I love cedar shingles, and I always wanted to keep chickens. It’s Bette Midler meets Meryl Streep. So maybe I don’t live on the Vineyard. My new closet already includes lots of linen and straw hats and faded denim. But since I’m living in the Music City I’ll keep all my boots and call my look the Landlocked Nana.

I caught the end of today’s hearing. As Grace said to Frankie on the beach, “Now what?”

Goose!

Guess what? Bob and I celebrated 43 years of marriage this past weekend. We survived the stress of many moves, launching two children into adulthood, and actually building a house together with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge. We joke that we rarely agree on anything, except the big things in life, like religion and politics. Our old VA Senator Tim Kaine Tweeted this morning:

“Virginia requires magazine limitation for duck hunting—no more than 3 rounds in a shotgun. Why? It’s not fair to ducks. Yet when we try to limit magazines to 10 rounds in Congress, we’re blocked. If we can limit magazines to protect ducks, we must do the same to protect people.

This of course presumes that we want to protect our people, our children.

Bob and I agree on ONE thing for sure – that guns ARE the problem. The Republicans are trying to compromise on guns, but they are still blaming pure “evil,” and mental illness for our country’s outstanding deaths due to… Wait. For. It. GUNS. They would like to arm our teachers, the same teachers they don’t trust to pick out books for their own classrooms. I am trying to imagine my guidance counselor, Miss Toye, with a gun.

I wouldn’t call this compromise, I’d call it treachery.

It’s treating our kids like ducks in a pond, in a war zone. Early in our marriage, we agreed never to buy toy guns for our children, not even water pistols. My husband doesn’t like to play games because he didn’t grow up in a competitive Irish Catholic home and try to win best all around athlete at Camp St Joseph every summer. I OTOH love to play games of any sort!

But do you want to play Hunger Games with your children’s lives? Maybe they could outrun a madman with a rifle if he could only buy 10 rounds of ammunition? How many young lives are we willing to sacrifice for three rounds? I remember all my childhood games – duck, duck goose, hop scotch, red light green light, spin the bottle.

I remember being a young mom, moving back to NJ when the Rocker was two and the Bride was seven years old. I had wanted to stay in the Berkshires. Strangers would always ask me WHY we moved, implying that no one would want to actually move to the Garden State.

I was trying to bloom while my roots were being transplanted.

I resisted the new protocol of having to make a “play date” if my child wanted to play with someone on our street! A play date. That was the first sign that this move would be different, there was no going back. There were rules to these new suburban games. I volunteered to coach the Rocker’s little soccer team, and I drove the Bride to cheerleading practice. I tried to fit in, we all try our best to fit in, don’t we?

Unlike my generation, my children didn’t grow up with an internalized fear of nuclear war. There was no such thing as a cell phone, no social media. Bullies were confined to the school bus ride. No one had ever heard of an “active shooter drill.” Like my Catholic school in the 1950s, only the occasional fire drill could pierce the solemnity of the classroom.

When will the party of the right with blood on their hands, reinstate the assault weapon ban? Ban them for good! No time limits, no concessions. It’s puzzling why a leader on this front hasn’t emerged.

I brought a burnt orange jacket to our anniversary dinner, but it was too hot to wear on the patio. Bob didn’t have anything to wear in orange. Wearing orange is also a start, but we cannot stop the momentum. No one needs an AR-15. No. One.

In Memoriam

This past Memorial Day weekend we stayed home.

We trimmed back the lilacs, and watched the magnolia start to bloom. Bob painted the front porch. We watered the garden and walked the dogs – Ms Bean and her three cousins next door. We were settling into our new/old house. And best of all, we were on Grandparenting Duty (GD), which is very different from babysitting mind you.

Bob and I are under no obligation to “watch” our grandchildren, in fact we relish spending time with them. Our rising 2nd and 5th graders are curious and helpful. While the Groom started his MICU attending duties, and the Bride worked three days straight, the littles just skipped down the street to our house. Our only mission was to ‘feed and water’ them and have fun; to witness the wild creativity of childhood… again.

On our first neighborhood 4people/4dogs walk, I brought up something I heard the Pumpkin say a few times – “What are we going to do when…..” (insert) “… we get home,” “after lunch,” etc. This question always reminds me of the little animated fawn, Bambi, asking his mama what they were going to do today. Children like to know what’s next, they love ritual, but summer was about to begin. School was out! I started to talk to the Grands about “unstructured time.” The Love Bug was all in, the Pumpkin however, differentiated between things we “have” to do vs things we “want” to do.

I could see my little red headed perpetual motion machine was struggling with the concept of just chillin. But research has shown us that time to explore and create and simply PLAY is essential to a healthy childhood. The Bug said, “It’s kinda like recess!” YES

“It’s like we HAVE to walk the dogs, but we WANT to eat ice cream,” the Pumpkin added.

So I asked him, “What would you like to do today if you could do anything you want?” He stopped walking and looked thoughtfully at his older dog who was preparing to poop.

“I’d like to build something with Pop Bob.”

And so they did – they studied and designed a “Lending Library” for our fence – a place for neighbors to take a book and replace a book. They set up shop in our dilapidated garage surrounded by wood scraps and power tools. I made a note to myself to get a big fan for the garage, temperatures were rising toward 90 degrees. And I tried to stay out of their way, only delivering lemonade once. My heart was melting as I watched them work.

The Bug and I cooked a beautiful barbeque dinner for their parents one night. She cleaned and chopped fruits and vegetables, and we talked about random things like friendship and boys. There was a boy at her end of the year school party who wanted to give her a balloon shaped like a heart. But she didn’t want it, and the balloon flew away. I told her she would break a lot of hearts, and she laughed and said I sound like her Mother.

There are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters who will never get to have these conversations with their children in Uvalde, TX. They will never get to build something with them, or cook with them, or laugh with them again. I am sending them my heartfelt sympathy and reserving my anger for our legislators; the mostly Republican men and women who have so much blood on their hands.

If we cannot ban assault weapons, change the legal age to buy a gun to 21, and pass background checks and red flag laws with a Democratic President, House, Senate and nearly 80% of the people, then we are surely doomed. We have become a country willing to sacrifice our children for the almighty gun dollar.

Just when we thought it was safe to appear mask-less at certain public venues, like the Nashville Ballet this past weekend, Covid numbers are starting to rise. In TN, the average daily number of new cases last week rose by 58%!

“Health officials believe the virus has killed more people than state totals indicate, especially early in the pandemic before testing and effective treatments were widely available. A rise in deaths usually follows a rise in new cases by about a month. For example, after the delta variant caused a surge of new cases beginning in July 2021, the death toll began to climb in August.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/coronavirus-us-cases-deaths/?itid=hp_habit-bar-morning&state=US

The Bride is seeing more cases of the virus, and one by one each Grand reports another student absent from class. Of course this is the last week of school. But I was just beginning to feel like the worst was behind us; like this summer might be especially sweet in our new/old Crystal Cottage. Bob has been replacing ceiling fans and adjusting doors – yesterday he and the Groom switched out a dead foundation shrub for a gorgeous flowering, snowball Viburnum.

Then I noticed a Tweet last week by Bill Hanage, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. It seems there are clusters of “monkeypox” in the UK, Portugal, Spain and Canada!

It is v plausible that transmission has been happening for some time unnoticed because folks don’t expect to see monkeypox and so don’t diagnose it. You hear hoofbeats you expect horses, not unicorns. You see lesions, you don’t expect monkeypox and assume it is something else.”

The good news here is that if you happen to be of a certain age, your smallpox vaccine should protect you; the bad news is the same cannot be said for young people. Smallpox was a dangerous, contagious disease for over 3,000 years and was considered eradicated in 1980. Our children and grandchildren were never vaccinated.

Bob and I did our own Covid/monkeypox research at the ballet. He wore a mask and I didn’t. We’d received a text saying the symphony would not be playing live because of an outbreak of Covid among the musicians. But the ballet would be accompanied by the taped rehearsal music, complete with directions at times. I dream about this very thing! The last time I saw a ballet recital was in Saratoga with Balanchine. We could have exchanged our tickets, but I was there to see the dancers after all.

Some people must have opted out because the theatre was only a third full.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is like a beautiful cathedral to the arts, its ceiling rising over 40 ft. I figured I’d be safe without a mask, Bob wasn’t taking any chances. On Wednesday, we figured we’d do an at-home Covid test.

But this morning I awoke to two jars of Jiffy peanut butter on the kitchen island. My dear husband, who’d been feeling queasy last night, informed me that PB jars with our lot numbers were being recalled because of salmonella! So in the end, it may be a rotten jar of bacteria that you can’t see, taste or smell that finally brings us down, or I should say ‘him.’ He ate a PB&J sandwich, not me. I’m more of a lox and cream cheese type for lunch.

I made him take his mask off for this ballet selfie

Lost Day

On the day my sister Kay woke from her coma and left the hospital – the same hospital still holding her mother and grandmother captive – the movie “Lost Weekend” was playing at the local Scranton movie theatre. I can see her now, in the back seat of a car, looking at the marquee and thinking to herself, “I lost a whole month.”

The Flapper’s automobile accident had been on the Fourth of July, and Kay was unconscious for a whole month. She’d “lost” the first month of summer picnics and ballgames. It’s a humbling feeling I’m sure to wake up and discover the world went on without you; dogs were fed, gardens watered and someone took care of the baby. No child at fourteen should have to care for her younger brothers, her crippled mother, and a ten month old baby sister. But that was her misfortune, her karma, our Year of Living Dangerously.

This week, the first hazy, hot and humid day of the summer, our air conditioner died and I felt like I lost a whole day.

Bob and I went out to run some errands and returned to a very hot house. The HVAC people who had installed a tankless water heater just a few months earlier, were booked solid. Temps would hover near 90, but they said they could come “tomorrow.” The Bride kindly offered us dinner in her freezing cold house, and of course we accepted. She wanted us to stay in her garage apartment overnight, but we said no thanks.

That night, we opened windows, found a fan, and attempted to sleep. After all, we are both stoic. We grew up without air conditioning, and we never needed it while we lived in the Berkshires.

The next day a young technician arrived and spent four hours troubleshooting our combo gas furnace and electric air conditioner. It was installed in 2015. Would I sound like an old codger if I complained about planned obsolescence? It does seem like major appliances used to get “fixed” when we were first married, and now more often than not, something needs to be “replaced.” Lucky for us, we only needed a new capacitor.

Still, our crooked crystal cottage could hold the heat in her walls. It took many hours for our unit to cool the whole house to a comfortable temperature. I don’t remember much of that day – trying to plant outside in the shade, refilling Ms Bean’s water bowl and checking her breathing to see if she was still alive. Animals are smart about the weather, she switched into hibernation mode immediately.

The 1945 movie Lost Weekend was about an alcoholic. Ray Milland plays a writer who goes on a “four day bender.” I’ve never experienced a blackout while drinking, I was always told I’m a lightweight. But these last few weeks of men debating a woman’s sovereignty over her own body have made me want to pop open a wine bottle again. And over this past weekend, our country experienced FOUR mass shootings…

I’m exhausted and tired of this fight, in a country where barely 1/3 of the population gets to impose their rules and religious beliefs on the rest of us . They want the freedom to carry guns, without a permit, like it’s the wild west. They want to legislate our wombs.

The problem with overdoing alcohol is the next day you pay. I heard Jane Fonda say she doesn’t have many days left in this life, and if she drank a martini tonight she would lose the next day. So I’ll pop open a Pellegrino and keep writing. I’ll try to stay grateful for all the little things in this life, like the Love Bug graduating from elementary school.

I don’t want to lose another day.

Mama Day

For Mother’s Day, I went to the local garden store and bought nine small pots of French lavender. I’m planning to plant a purple hedge along the house side of our dilapidated garage, so whenever I look out the family room window, I’ll feel like I’m in the South of France.

I don’t have to plant lilacs for my foster mother Nell, I already have two glorious plants outside my snug’s window; and just like my maternal history, they are two different species of shrub. They sit side by side and both bloom at the same time, but one is a pale purpley/pink lilac and the other is a deeper violet.

“Lilac bushes set buds on old wood, so prune and shape them right after they finish blooming. Otherwise, said Tyler, you risk cutting off next year’s flowers.”

https://flowermag.com/lilac-bushes/

The lilacs have finished blooming, thank goodness I have a new pruning shear! Lately, my opulent magenta peonies have been exploding. If you asked me to dream up a perfect Mother’s Day, yesterday would have been it – we were only missing the Rocker and Aunt Kiki. I spent most of the day digging in the dirt. Then we set up a badminton net in the backyard for the Grands. The Bride had to work in the ER, but the Groom surprised her with dinner and dessert for us all! They made a pineapple upside down cake.

It was 73 and sunny, no bugs and no humidity, almost like California!

Ah, California, the state that is proposing an amendment to their constitution that would enshrine the Right to Choice! Thank you Senator Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon.

Still, the leaked SCOTUS draft decision taking us back to the 1950s put a damper on my Mom Day. The juxtaposition of Naomi Judd’s suicide next to a possible Roe v Wade ban brought up old feelings of dread. Judd was part of my generation of women who went to hospitals with belly pain and were told we were pregnant. Before Roe became the Law of the Land, nurses and doctors looked at us with pity, and tried to explain why they couldn’t help us.

At least she wasn’t sent away in disgrace, to give up her baby in a different state, like so many teenage moms. At least she didn’t go to a back alley abortionist and become septic, and die. Or maybe worse, become infertile. Her family didn’t have the means to send her to Mexico or Cuba for a legal abortion. Judd had to grow up fast. Here is a part of her daughter Ashley’s tribute:

But motherhood happened to her without her consent. She experienced an unintended pregnancy at age 17, and that led her down a road familiar to so many adolescent mothers, including poverty and gender-based violence.

“Forgive me if my grief isn’t tidy. When I think about my mother, I am awash in the painful specifics. It’s a little easier, this Mother’s Day, to think about mothers in the collective, to wonder whether we value them. Every day, more than 800 women die in pregnancy and childbirth from causes for which solutions are affordable and achievable,” she wrote before sharing her 2018 experience with women in South Sudan “whose bodies were mangled from childbirth.”

https://americansongwriter.com/ashley-judd-writes-heartfelt-letter-about-mom-naomi-judd-ahead-of-mothers-day-forgive-me-if-my-grief-isnt-tidy/

If our country really valued mothers in the collective, we would send nurses to the homes of new moms. We’d supply free diapers and formula. We would give new moms a year of paid leave, and we’d provide affordable child care in every single state. Every child would be wanted. European countries have managed to do this, to value women. But we, we Americans just pretend to value women and babies.

I’m glad that the Flapper, who was born in 1908, came around to a Pro Choice stand. It wasn’t easy for her, she had six children herself, and our Irish ancestors had double and sometimes triple that number. But she was smart and slightly Buddhist in her old age. She had her first child at 17, and became pregnant at the age of 40 with me, her last child, to give my dying father a reason to live. Her doctor had no idea he would die of a brain tumor when I was seven months old.

I brought the Bride to march for Choice many times over the years. I never thought this day would actually come, silly me. I didn’t think she would ever have to look a young woman in the eyes and tell her there is nothing more she can do to help her. I didn’t think she’d possibly end up seeing septic young women bleed out in her ER. I thought we were better than this.

My family of doctors

Yesterday’s Zoom with siblings was fun. My sister Kay and I enlightened our brother Dr Jim about the powerful, witchy ways of women. Particularly in courtship rituals – Jim always thought it was the man who usually chose his mate. Being a scientist, he saw reproduction in Darwinian terms. In fact, women have been helping women pick and choose their ‘forever after’ since Biblical times.

For instance, there was a friend of the Bride’s who was ready to settle down with her long-term boyfriend, but there was no ring in sight. Enter my single response to her plight – he says he “thinks” he loves me.

“In love there is no THINK. You either do or you don’t love someone. Move on.”

They were engaged within three months. Kay told one of her friends in an extra long relationship to buy a ticket home to South Africa. That ticket was the catalyst to a long, happy marriage. When ambiguity is a state of mind and living with uncertainty is untenable, give back what you’re receiving. Bend like the willow.

So when I read an article about the US policy regarding Ukraine this morning, I was intrigued. Written by a Rumson man I had interviewed at the Miller Center, Eric Edelman urges the State Department to abandon its “Strategic Ambiguity” policy. He is looking ahead to Taiwan, to the Peoples Republic of China, and urges us to plan accordingly by reinforcing their military capacity now. IF…

“…we are not prepared to see a thriving, prosperous democratic society swallowed up by a brutal autocratic regime led by a messianic zealot, there are a series of steps the United States must take—and soon.. .Deterrence ahead of time could very well be the stitch that saves nine.”

https://www.thebulwark.com/the-lessons-of-ukraine-for-taiwan-and-the-u-s/

Most of you know I am very much a pacifist. If only the women of the world could somehow convince men not to rattle their sabers. But after our collective experience with Mr T and a pandemic that killed millions of people, continuing an ambiguous strategy does not feel right at this time in history. Being Switzerland is NOT an option.

IF in fact, we want to save our democracy and defend fledgling democracies around the world, being proactive makes perfect sense. What do you value? Free speech? Let’s not worry about Twitter. A woman journalist for Radio Free Europe was killed by a Russian bomb in Ukraine last month. https://www.rferl.org/a/rfe-rl-president-pays-tribute-to-journalist-killed-in-her-home-in-russian-missile-strike-on-kyiv/31827576.html.

It was beautiful to see the night sky in NYC ablaze with blue and yellow buildings. But wearing the colors of Ukraine can only do so much.

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